Monday, August 30, 2010

ARC Review: Poison by Sara Poole

Title: Poison
Author: Sara Poole
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Available: Now
Number of Pages: 416

4 out of 5 Stars

Description from Goodreads:

In the simmering hot summer of 1492, a monstrous evil is stirring within the Eternal City of Rome. The brutal murder of an alchemist sets off a desperate race to uncover the plot that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge Europe back into medieval darkness. 

Determined to avenge the killing of her father, Francesca Giordano defies all convention to claim for herself the position of poisoner serving Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, head of the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy. She becomes the confidante of Lucrezia Borgia and the lover of Cesare Borgia. At the same time, she is drawn to the young renegade monk who yearns to save her life and her soul. 

Navigating a web of treachery and deceit, Francesca pursues her father’s killer from the depths of Rome’s Jewish ghetto to the heights of the Vatican itself. In so doing, she sets the stage for the ultimate confrontation with ancient forces that will seek to use her darkest desires to achieve their own catastrophic ends. 

First Line:

The Spaniard died in agony. That much was evident from the contortions of his once handsome face and limbs and the black foam caking his lips. A horrible death to be sure, one only possible from the most feared of weapons: Poison

Favorite Quote:

“Have you noticed that those who murder in the thousands invariably claim divine favor while those who kill on a far more modest scale, myself included, know in our hearts that God weeps for our sins?”

My thoughts:

I know I rarely add quotes or first lines to my reviews. I just had to with this one because I was impressed by much of the writing.

Poison begins with Francesca Giordano confessing to poisoning the Cardinal’s poisoner. A position that belonged to her father before he was brutally beaten to death. She hopes that she’ll be able to take over the job of poisoner, and find the opportunity to avenge her father’s murder. Francesca sets out to discover who ordered her father’s beating, while doing the Cardinal’s bidding. The trail takes her into the Jewish neighborhoods of Rome, and she uncovers secrets that she isn’t sure her father ever wanted her to know.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Francesca is such a troubled soul, but that didn’t prevent me from liking her. There is also an extraordinary cast of secondary characters. I hope we’ll learn more about some of my favorites as this series continues. I was fascinated by the factual historical elements the plot contained. Many characters were based on people that actually did exist during this time period. While Francesca is purely fictional, I’d love to think Rome contained a few women as fierce as her.

This novel also explores the trouble faced by the Jewish population of Europe. Some parts are graphic, and horrifying. I was under the impression this was a young adult novel, but I’m not really sure. I’d say it is definitely suitable for older teens, but keep in mind it does contain violence, sexual situations, and mild language. It was a pretty heavy read. 

If you enjoy historical novels that contains fiction with a dash of fact check this one out.  I’m looking forward to the next book in this new series.

Sara Poole on the web:


  1. I really liked this book as well. But, I also agree that I'm not sure it's for YA. Plus, it had a discussion guide in the back. I've never seen that in a YA book.

  2. This sounds amazing. You've sold me on it :)

  3. Well, now I do need to read this. Love historical fiction and this sounds perfect. Great review!

  4. I've been debating on getting this book or not.

    While I love History, I don't really know how I feel about historical fiction. But I do hope to someday read this book!

    Great review!

  5. I don't think anything that graphic should be YA. But, if you liked it, you might like the literary historical and qualities of The Witch of Cologne by Tobsha Learner.

  6. Page, the copy I read didn’t have the guide. I might have to pick up a finished copy just for that.

    Step, thanks for the recommendations. I agree on the violence. It didn’t say YA on the cover or anything, but I received it from a YA tour website. I think a common misconception is teen protag = YA.